I thought Camden Town was a gastronomic desert, but I was wrong. Or even if I was right (and I remain to be convinced), Le Mignon is an oasis. It’s warm, welcoming, informal and the food conjured up by chef Hussein, from South Lebanon, is delicious.
It’s not French, as the name would suggest, but Lebanese. And as the menu proudly informs you, Lebanese cuisine is considered to be one of the best in the Mediterranean. To the uninitiated (me), at first glance the menu appears to be very similar to that of a Greek restaurant – and there certainly are cross-overs, though the spelling varies (Hommos, for instance – every bit as good as the best Greek). There’s also an emphasis on lamb dishes, not surprisingly. But there’s much more variety than in the average Greek.
We kicked off with a mixture of cold starters (£3.95 – £6.50) including an excellent Lebanese version of stuffed vine leaves, Warak Inab Bizeit, and the unpromising-sounding Foul Moukala. This is very far from being foul: it’s green broad beans cooked in olive oil, fresh coriander and garlic, and it’s very good indeed. We failed to order Moujadara – one of the specialities of the house, consisting of lentils and rice topped with fried onions – just one of many good reasons to go back.
Main courses include a lot of different things to do with lamb and chicken on skewers, all around the £10 mark. Firri (quails grilled on charcoal, £9.50) were very tasty, and for those who can’t make up their minds (or serious carnivores) there’s also Mishwi Mshakal, a selection of skewered cubed lamb, chicken and minced lamb (£11.50). Fish dishes are pricier but the quality speaks for itself – the grilled sea bass (£18.50) was perfectly cooked.
We didn’t have space to test the Lebanese sweets, alas (another reason to return) but we did test the Lebanese house wine very thoroughly. Both red and white are soft and more-ish, and terrific value for money.
This version of Le Mignon been open about a year now; there’s another branch just two doors away, the original intention having been to merge the two to make one larger restaurant. It’s open 12 noon ‘til midnight every day, and there’s a daily set lunch for £7.50. What more could you ask. Especially in Camden Town.
– Helen Wright, 10/2003